Burford Holly: Excellent Specimen For Borders, Screens And Hedges

The Burford holly has a very dense growth habit, develops rapidly from 18’ to 20′ feet, and is well proportioned. The large red berries are freely borne. The leaves are large, thick, rounded, dark green, and glossy, with a single spine at the apex.

This variety is one of the finest, all-purpose, broad-leaf evergreens for Southern planting because of its wide range of use and adaptability to soils and exposures.

Burford hollyPin

“The Burford holly adapts itself to almost any type of landscape useófor foundation work, as a specimen for shrub borders, for evergreen screens, for dense hedges, and for nearly any other use you would have for a perfect evergreen shrub.

It lends itself to formal or informal plantings with dignity and charm, enhanced by the vitality and cheer of its prominent red berries in autumn and winter. It is one of the best all-around species we know.”

This quotation from “The Southern Garden Book” and the Burford Holly’s prominence in the chapter on Evergreen Shrubs and Trees of the South indicates how this species is held among southern gardeners familiar with it. The affection is based on very sound reasons.

One Of The Loveliest Evergreen Shrubs or Small Trees

It is unquestionably one of the loveliest evergreen shrubs or small trees, not only for the South but for practically all the world’s temperate regions.

It originated in Atlanta, having “sported” or “mutated” from some plants of Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) that Superintendent Thomas H. Burford of Atlanta’s famous West View Cemetery had received from the Department of Agriculture sometime before the First World War.

Superintendent Burford was a great lover of plants and took great pride in caring for the many tine specimens and plantings in West View Cemetery and adding to them until he died in the 1920s.

On this particular occasion, Mr. Burford was propagating and growing on quite a collection of evergreen material when he noted that some of his cuttings of Chinese holly showed only a single spine at the apex of the leaf as contrasted to the three- to five-spined and frequently warped leaves of the typical plants of this species.

He noted that these unusual leaves were glossy and of the wealthiest green color, and he was naturally quite pleased.

The young plants were transplanted to suitable locations inside the cemetery’s gates, and cuttings were made to have more plants for the grounds and distribution to his nursery workers’ friends.

Here, though, is where he struck a snag.

The cuttings would not take root when handled like other evergreen cuttings.

Finally, by choosing a shaded area under some trees and placing semi-hardwood cuttings in a medium of peat moss and sand in late summer, he succeeded in getting a good “strike,” and the propagating problem was solved.

By this time, the original plants had grown to a height and spread of several feet and had bloomed and, by late summer, were thickly studded with huge green berries. These turned a bright scarlet red with the advent of cool fall weather. If anything, the berries were more extensive and more colorful than those of the parent species.

Nurserymen throughout the South heard of this superb new addition to the list of many fine broad-leaf evergreens already well-adapted, both from a climatic and landscape standpoint. They begged plants from the cemetery nursery to begin their propagation.

Mr. Burford was always most generous with his plants and, as well, with his knowledge and technique of propagation and culture so that, within a span of only a generation, this new holly variety became a standard nursery offering and a most appealing landscape subject.

It is bright green, lush and vigorous in the spring, hardy, resistant, and practically immune to insects, disease, or severe droughts in summer, and filled with thrilling scarlet red berries for fall and winter festive occasions outside or for cut, branches brought indoors for interior decoration and display.

It is little wonder that horticultural authorities gave this most beautiful of ‘lollies the name of the man who first observed its attractive characteristics. Ilex comma var. Burford, the Burford hollyófor all the world to enjoy.

44659 by Donald M. Hastings